10 things I learned while writing a sequel
25 April 2012
The experience of completing my first draft of TAKEN’s sequel has come with many ups and downs. The simplest thing I can say is this: Book Twos are strange beasts. Strange, strange beasts.
My experience is not universal, but I do know a handful of writers that faced some of the same struggles (and epiphanies) as me while writing Book Two. I thought I’d share a few things that stood out in my mind…
1 — You can do it.
Everything is impossible until it’s done. Somehow, you will reach the end. If you keep sitting down, if you keep plowing forward, if you don’t give up, the novel will get written. It might be hell getting there, but you’ll finish.
2 — But it will suck.
If your process is anything like mine, you will go from copy-edited, perfectly punctuated, grammatically correct and fully edited Book One to the blank page. It’s going to be a shock when you realize that everything you type is a mess. Let me repeat that: It is going to be a mess. If you can write a well paced novel with clean, flowing prose, no plot holes, pitch-perfect character arcs, and zero typos on the first try, I want whatever you’re on. Now.
3 — But you can make it better.
That’s the whole point of revising. So power through, finish that messy first draft, and then worry about all the nitty-gritty details.
4 — The pressure is often self-inflicted.
I felt a lot of pressure while drafting book two. Pressure to not suck. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to include twists and turns and gorgeous prose, and pressure to not disappoint. I didn’t want to let my agent down. Or my editor and publisher. Here’s the truth: I was my own worst enemy. No one was putting these pressures on me except for myself. Once I realized that, I was able to shove that doubting, negative voice to the back of my head and focus on the draft.
5 — Procrastination is the root of all evil.
A no-brainer, but a truth. That book is not going to write itself. Get off twitter. Stop checking your email. Who cares about those pins or tumblogs or whether or not your books been added to another goodreads shelf! Kill your internet and write your damn book.
6 — Things are quiet for a reason.
Piggybacking off #5, stop checking your email. Seriously. The reason you haven’t heard from your editor in six weeks is because she wants you to be writing your book. You know…that sequel she expects to have in her hands when your deadline arrives. So quit worrying about why your inbox isn’t bursting with messages from her. She doesn’t hate you. Your deal hasn’t been canceled or dropped. She’s giving you some quiet, uninterrupted time to focus. Use it. Appreciate it. I doubt it will be the same when book one is out in the world and you’re drafting book three.
7 — Throw it all on the page.
Unless you already know, deep down, that an idea is wrong, get it on paper. I threw a million ideas on the page when I drafted book two. I’d rather have too much than not enough. I’d rather give my readers and editor more to react to than less. You don’t know if something is right until you try it. So try everything.
8 — The ending might kill you.
I rewrote the ending to book two four different times before I was happy with my initial draft. Four. Times. This may be because my book two is the second in a trilogy. I’m setting things up for the final showdown, but still trying to have a complete and fulfilling novel on it’s own (you know how I hate cliffhangers!). Each book needs an arc, but so does the series. I knew this subconsciously going in, but when I faced it head on, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting, I sort of wanted to cry.
9 — You’re still scared it sucks.
Good. This means you care. This means you want your novel to be the very best in can be. If you’re not scared you’re doing something wrong.
10 — Writing is hard.
Having completed book one didn’t make book two come any easier. Writing is a demanding, challenging, trying thing. It’s hard and always will be. But that’s sort of why I love it.